17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Navigating the Classroom Mom

I recently volunteered and followed through with hosting Pukey's kindergarten HOLIDAY party in my home.

When the request was on the table, I figured everyone had an undersized apartment for such an event, and I like hosting parties, so I immediately signed up. I figured it would run like any other party that I frequently (compared to most people I know), have...everyone comes, brings something to share, party hearty people!

A few weeks leading up to the party I started getting hurried suggestions for a craft from one of the room moms. I wasn't down with a craft because 45 people (and furniture, kitchen appliances and 45 sets of winterwear) in 700square feet doesn't allow for much crafting. And also: who wants to craft at a party? But, I looked online and found one I thought would work and emailed it to her. She blew off my email and kept talking in circles about some craft book she had somewhere that might have something. Unspoken words in my head: "Well, I found something..." She just doesn't listen quite so well. AND if you are mid-conversation with her and one of her kids shows up, forget it....you have just become invisible.

A few days before the party she called to discuss the party. Well, what I thought of as MY party, but what she thought of as HER party. PROBLEM.

I listened respectfully to her talking around in circles bit. (I am trying to be very careful in how I navigate this woman because we will be having a long relationship. The kindergarten class that my daughter is in is composed of the same kids that will be in her 1st-8th grade class, so there is no crossing fingers for something different next year. uh-uh.)

When I made a suggestion for the party, 3 out of 4 times, she countered it with the opposite sugary-sweet DEMAND.

Her: What were you thinking as a structure for the party?
Me: I don't really structure parties, but perhaps we could throw a Christmas movie on in Pukey's room if the kids start getting restless.
Her: Well, I don't know if a Christmas movie is appropriate since 2 of the kids do not celebrate Christmas.
Me: Well, it wouldn't be one about Jesus, but fine, I will just put out the Disney movies. (moving on...)

Her:95 second monologue on how since Christmas is so the majority out there that it is not appropriate to show at a Holiday party, but a Hannakah movie would be ok to show since that is the minority blah blah blah blah.

Me: Fine. I will just put out the Disney movies. (moving on...)

Luckily I got her to agree that the craft would just have to be a back-burner item and only pulled out for dire circumstances....and it was never pulled out btw.

Next issue: Music.
Me: Well, now that I know your ideas on the Christmas movie, I will alter my music plans and just pick the secularist of secular Christmas tunes to mix in with just plain old pop and childrens music.

Her: Well, maybe this sounds hypocritical, but I don't think there is anything wrong with playing Christmas music at a Holiday part.

Me: voice in head: Yes you are sounding hypocritical. What I really said: Well, whatever, that's what I am going to stick with.

I hope that this woman's intentions are good and she was just trying to be SUPER sensitive to the needs of all the children, but I felt that as a result she was not sensitive in the least to my role as host, and opening my home to 45 people! One of her arguments/points was that we are in a public school so we have to make sure we are super sensitive to the needs of all involved, and thus repress who we are and what we celebrate in such a setting. I told her I was not taking down my Christmas trees, sorry. She certainly didn't expect me too, but I was trying to jokingly express my disdain for her position.

The ironic thing is that I feel that because we are part of a public school, I expect to be exposed to all sorts of lifestyles and cultures, and I am thrilled for my child to learn about the families in her class. I opened my home so that these people could walk in and smell it, and look at what I have hung on the walls, and see my Christmas decorations and hear my music and get to know our family and what we believe and what we celebrate. Exposing each other to that is a huge part of being publicly educated...and that's why I felt so smothered by this super-sensitivity. And it also left me confused. If she named it a Holiday Party, just what Holiday was she referring to? Hmmmmmmmmm.....

I didn't quite stand up for myself to this woman. The reason is because I am trying to be careful because we will have to work together for a long time. And also, I don't feel that she hears me. When we talk, it's just her ideas, and never mine. I feel I would be wasting my breath. I know someday we may have to have a conversation, but a little confrontation never scared me.

The party ended up being a huge success. Everyone had a great time. I chatted with one of the Jewish moms and she didn't seemed phased in the least that our party was more Christmas than Holiday. She explained that Hannakah is such a non-holiday and it's the Christiam American's that puff it up, so that they feel less guilty for going all-out for Christmas! Ha! She is my favorite mom so far, and after that party, even more so.

PS. The grab bag was the room mom's idea and she brought hers wrapped in non-holiday doggy paper.


  • I am so impressed that you hosted a holiday party for 45 people in your home! I can't imagine doing something like that and am in total awe that entertaining like that comes so easily to you!

    I'm curious, I am the room mom for both my dd's classes (ages 7 and 3) and have been the room mom for my older daughter's classes for the last several years. I live on the West Coast, so I'm not sure if things are different on the East Coast, but is hosting a holiday party in a parent's home the norm there? Also, you mentioned the $50 donation for the teacher's gift in a previous post, is that also the norm? Here the kids just have a party in the classroom, sometimes the parents bring things in potluck style, sometimes pizza is ordered, and sometimes it is just a small snack and crafts. I've noticed less has been asked for as my dd gets older. For the teacher's gift, a voluntary cash donation of about $10-$15 is asked for to buy a gift card. This year I had 2 parents out of 20 donate. In years past I have usually had 50-75% participation, so I don't know as kids get older if parents are less motivated to buy the teacher a gift or to celebrate for the holiday party. I was just curious because your experience has been so different than mine, if the parent/room mom culture was different around the country.
    posted by Anonymous MKC at 12/14/2007 11:12:00 AM  

  • This type of thing makes me nutso, and I fear my tactfulness is not nearly as strong a suit as yours.

    "Alternative" and "minority" people are not the only ones who deserve tollerance. Criminy. I would have been livid had Hannakuh music been ok, but not Christmas. Rediculous.

    Brava for you for dealing with this minefield and this woman with such aplomb.
    posted by Anonymous tracy m at 12/14/2007 12:13:00 PM  

  • Why couldn't they just have a classroom party at school? It seems that when it is at someone's house things could get sticky like this. Don't most teachers just bring in a treat or play a game or something toward the last day before "holiday" break?
    posted by Blogger Beth at 12/14/2007 01:31:00 PM  

  • I totally agree with your point about showing your own culture, and hoping that your kids get the same opportunity to learn others cultures....wouldn't it have been slightly disappointing if the party had been at the Jewish mother's home and they didn't have anything related to Hannakah in the home, just generic holiday stuff?(ok, maybe bad example since she said it isn't very important...but you know what I mean).
    posted by Blogger Jen at 12/14/2007 02:50:00 PM  

  • mkc: I am totally new to school b/c my daughter is the oldest and in kindergarten. I am sure that in most public schools in NYC this is far from the norm. This school, though public, has a HUGE parent involvement and I think it is a bit over the top. 12 out of 14 kids in the class live in Manhattan, which can also (I believe) inflate things. 1 room mom (not the one written about here) is a teacher, and argues that she gets a ton of money as Christmas gift each year...she also works at a private school where tuition can be 25K a year per child...

    The other factor at play is this room mom has a daughter at the same school in 1st grade, so there are a lot of decisions made that go like this: Well, LAST year we did.... or It's only fair IF this b/c 1st grade is doing that... AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! Fair! hate it.

    The reason why the parents are going along with it? Well, half the class the child is an only child, and I think since they are young it is more imporant. The other room mom says: We just want kindergarten to be memorable.

    Do any of you remember kindergarten? That's what I thought.

    beth, oh don't you worry, there will be a classroom party...that's the after-recital party next week....where they expect my daughter to eat $10- worth of pizza. I will be donating $5. ($4- for the pin (b/c last year's kindergartners did that), and $1 for the half slice of pizza she will consume). GRRRRRRRR.

    tracy m, as for tact...well it is taking quite a bit of willpower for me to get through this, I have not spoken to miss room mom since the party, not quite ready...I avoid if I see her coming...
    posted by Blogger Kage at 12/14/2007 03:33:00 PM  

  • It kind of sounds like classic miscommunication to me. She probably thought it was her party because she was the room mom and thus supposed to plan it, and all you had to do was provide the place.

    You thought it was your party because it was at your house, and all she had to do was...I don't know...pick an activity or something.

    This should be made VERY clear in the future - who does what, who is responsible for food, decorations, games, place, so that toes don't get stepped on and "turf wars" like this one don't start.

    (MY party!!! NOO!!! MY party!!!)

    I would suggest writing up something for the Valentine's party, or end of year, or whatever other parties you have. Writing stuff down and giving clear instructions helps a ton in situations like these.

    This is why I am no longer a room mom. The politics give me a headache.
    posted by Blogger The Wiz at 12/14/2007 03:51:00 PM  

  • Okay, another comment... I think it's true that it's a personality thing. For example if I had to host a party for 45 people I would LOVE help, but that's because I'm not a great party thrower. But I would also delegate to those who wanted to help. If someone seems all worked up about a craft, maybe just let them be completely in charge of the craft (even if it's not exactly what you wanted to do). Hey, one thing off your list that you don't have to worry about. Same thing with music. Or tell them, "if you do the craft, I will do the music". I think delegating is a good idea, even if it takes a little of the control away from you.

    On another note, I don't have a school aged kid yet, but I have worked in public schools and my mom was a teacher, and I do think that when it comes to public school parties you need to keep things as simple and inexpensive as possible. Gifts and parties should be thoughtful of course, but I just think that even when you think you know what everyone's situation is over the holidays (as far as money goes), you might not. I just would hate a kid to feel alienated b/c their parent can't afford to contribute to a party or grab-bag. And a lot of parents aren't always honest about their situation. Just my two cents though.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 12/14/2007 04:24:00 PM  

  • beth & wiz, as to whose party it was: I think room mom def. thought I was ONLY providing the place. When we started the grab bag, she gave, in her words: an OFFICIAL WELCOME to everyone (gag).

    I love being in control and in charge of things, but I am willing to have a give and take. I think especially a few of my close friends on this blog know this...we are good at anticipating when the other needs to step in and make a decision (or maybe we just all agree with what we want to do all the time -accept for the revlon run/walk 03...oops, my bad).

    I digress.

    Anyway, I think this woman REALLY DESIRES control all the time and also micromanages.

    beth, I totally agree with you about delegating and the whole money situation thing. The funny thing is that I can afford all these things they are throwing at me but it bothers me that it seems to be a free for all right now, b/c it's still my money, and I want to decide what I do with it. With that $10 I could have taken my daughter ice skating again yesterday....but now I have spend it on grease and fake cheese.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 12/15/2007 05:25:00 AM  

  • OH yes, the infamous RunWalk of 03...

    All is forgiven :)
    posted by Blogger Chloe at 12/15/2007 07:03:00 AM  

  • LOL! Now where is the post reference to the RunWalk of 03... probably best to be kept among those involved? lol

    Kage you did a great job with this control freak kind of a woman. I work at a preschool and I'm alway amazed at how much effort the parents put into these children's education.
    Do they realize how many years they have to be a parent? (eternity) How Many classroom parties, concerts, award ceremonies, PTO/PTA meeting, book fairs, fund raisers, etc they will be attending? Support not smother from it all!

    My biggest pet peeve is participation trophy. BOoooooo
    There is my rant for the day, I feel better now! lol
    posted by Blogger delilas at 12/15/2007 07:59:00 PM  

  • I do remember kindergarten- but I had the most wonderful teacher ever. I used to go to her house and pick cherries from the tree in her front yard, and to thid day, Carefree bubblegum makes me think of her.

    But I know that's not normal!
    posted by Blogger tracy m at 12/16/2007 11:44:00 AM  

  • Tom. (Mon) is the first concert of the year....should be interesting!
    posted by Blogger Kage at 12/16/2007 06:16:00 PM  

  • Sounds like a nightmare! Any chance that she would somehow read the blog and see herself in it? ;)
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 12/18/2007 06:59:00 PM  

  • I think it was probably a really good idea to walk softly at this point in your relationship. Hopefully things will get better over time (and it sounds like you will have a lot of it-8 years!)
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 12/19/2007 07:55:00 AM  

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